About Our Organization

Mission Statement
Broad Spectrum Veterinary Student Association’s mission is to connect, support and empower community for LGBT+* students and allies across veterinary education.
*LGBT + will be used as an inclusive acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer,Questioning, Asexual and others who self-identify on the sexual orientation and/or gender expression continuums.

Vision Statement
Broad Spectrum desires greater support and a sense of community for all LGBT+ students and allies throughout veterinary medical education. We actively strive to counter episodes of bigotry and marginalization with positive messages of diversity and inclusion. We have healthy, supportive and encouraging relationships with pre-veterinary, veterinary and graduate students, faculty, staff and administrators. We are known for advocating for the respect and equality of seen and unseen LGBT+ members in the academic veterinary community and beyond. We contribute to the development of safe and welcoming veterinary school environments for pre- and current veterinary students. Broad Spectrum makes veterinary schools more inclusive for all students, especially LGBT+ students. We accomplish this by starting important and courageous conversations about LGBT+ inclusion, in addition to maintaining much needed support for LGBT+ students in veterinary medicine.

Our History

We were founded in 2011 at the SAVMA Symposium hosted by UC Davis. The name 'Broad Spectrum' came out of a calculated attempt to be as inclusive as possible to any student who falls anywhere on the spectra of sexuality, sex, or gender. We welcome all students no matter their sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression. And yes, allies, this means we welcome you, too!

Our Links

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Vet Gazette Essay Winner: Nikko Poulos, University of Minnesota

     What is it like to be an LGBT veterinary student and have a family to care for at the same time?? For a little insight, here is an excellent essay written by veterinary student Nikko Poulos from University of Minnesota! It was published on the Vet Gazette and was also a recent grant winning essay for SAVMA’s yearly Cultural and Diversity Grant. Thanks for the wonderful essay Nikko! We wish you and your family all the best in the world!

It has taken me nearly 3 decades to become comfortable as a gay man. The label, “gay,” often brings people to think about the sexual history of the word. Even the term, “sexual orientation,” makes people focus on the word “SEX!” For me, becoming comfortable with being gay meant bigger things.  I always knew I wanted a family and I knew that it was going to happen with a person of the same sex (there goes that word again).  Now, at 33, I have everything I could have hoped for. I’ve been
partnered for over 10 years and in that time we’ve adopted two wonderful African American infant girls, now 3 and 5 years of age. We are a family. Surprisingly our undeniably conspicuous family has never felt conspicuous to me. We have had the luxury of living in major metropolitan areas like Chicago and Minneapolis, where there are often other families like us. Where there are people seeing, knowing and interacting with more families like us.
Beyond building a family, my life’s goal was to become a veterinarian. That became a reality last year when I started my first year of veterinary school at the University of Minnesota. The first year flew by quickly and like most first year students, my eagerness for hands on experience was a given. I’d been in the small animal field for over 10 years – as a vet tech and then as the owner of one of Chicago’s largest pet care companies, but over this time my interests in large animal grew as well. About 5 years ago we purchased 12 acres of peaceful land in Iowa. We’ve spent as many weekends as possible restoring the land and building a vacation cottage while also getting to know our little town of less than a thousand people. However, this past summer we decided to spend more time there to give meaning to the name, “summer home.”  I knew it was the perfect place to get my hands on­, and in, a cow.
A beef and dairy practice in our small town kindly allowed me to shadow several country vets throughout the summer.   On my first day I rode with a doctor where the generational gap between us was obvious. Still, in the course of making small talk and getting to know each other, I talked about my kids and partner often.   I realized by the third time I said, “partner,” that there was confusion as to what that exactly meant.  During one conversation I was surrounded by 3 dairy producers and a farm manager when the doctor confusingly said, “So who is your partner?” I stuttered and said, “Um, a guy named Mick-Dean.” The number for the next preg check was yelled and I was saved by the ovarian interruption.
That night I felt guilty about feeling ashamed to clarify what “partner” meant.  The next day I clarified what I meant and he uncomfortably replied, “Oh, I didn’t know if you meant business partner or…ummm…that thing you just said. Ya, we don’t see much of that around here.” He didn’t say any of this in a demeaning way, but like me, he too was uncomfortable. I realized that it is uncomfortable because, like most rural communities, people there do not have opportunity to see, know or interact with families like us.  Different and new can be uncomfortable. We are different and new to this community. This is not only a generational difference but also a cultural difference between rural and urban settings. Will this cause me or other gay practitioners to forgo their passions of large animal medicine because of feeling uncomfortable? I’ve determined it won’t stop me – and I hope it won’t stop others.  
This story is not to diminish the current status of the veterinary profession. In many ways veterinary medicine has proved itself pliable in the face of social change. This has been proven by the steady shift of female veterinarians entering a field that was formerly predominated by males. Still, veterinary colleges nationwide are trying to figure out how to solve for the lack of diversity in our profession.  In order for veterinary medicine to become a more diverse group of individuals, we will need to instill our youth with the power to see themselves as the next veterinarians of the future. This includes youth of all cultures and sexual orientations.
I currently engage my daughters in the love of science and veterinary medicine through my enjoyment of being a student. It makes even your electrolytes smile to have them show even a slight interest in obtaining knowledge. But as my 5 year old asks questions, she does so with no knowledge of barriers to her future. The barrier of the youth of our profession should not be an internal conflict between who they are and who they want to become.
Discrimination comes from not having personal and meaningful experiences with others that are different from you.  When you have personal interactions, you focus less on how you differ and more on how you are alike. I am slowly showing my small town community that different and new is not really that different, nor that new.  Being a gay family should not define us. Our 5 year old daughter is in love with Justin Bieber, lately my husband feels fat and my 3 year old can’t stop saying, “No!” Come to think of it, luckily we’re a gay family with two African American children or we would have nothing interesting about us. 
Jokes aside, I can’t imagine the type of courage that is needed to be the very first person in a small rural community to announce that they are gay.  The veterinarian said, “They didn’t see much of that around there.” Not seeing is not equivalent to not existing.  For now, I am hoping that by setting stake in my small community no one has to feel like they are the first ones.     

Nikko Poulos
University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine
D.V.M. Candidate, Class of 2015


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